Farmer in Bedo, the “waterman” of Jharkhand, wins Padma Sri at 83 for his efforts in conservation

12th Feb 2016
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Better known as Jharkhand’s waterman, Simon Oraon had always been more popular among farmers in the Bedo district. His popularity has soared higher since the President’s office announced that he would be given the coveted Padma Shri award for his contribution to environment conservation, reports Hindustan Times.

Image: Hindustan Times
Image: Hindustan Times

Simon, 83, has been waging a war against drought since the day he dropped out of school as a Class IV student. Back then, the land was facing a period of great scarcity, while many died of hunger, others migrated elsewhere in a quest for survival. This disturbed the boy immensely, making him dedicate his life to the conservation of water and forests. It was way back in 1961 that the waterman, then a strapping young man of 28, joined forces with some like-minded friends to construct check dams to tap rainwater. They were not an instant success…the mud structures, constructed with the limited resources at hand, did not last the first showers. But Simon did not lose heart. He prevailed upon government agencies until they were forced to help him set up a concrete dam.The initiative soon took the shape of a movement. Simon launched a massive tree plantation drive, and dug wells as well as ponds to ensure that rainwater doesn’t drain away. In the years that followed, he taught the art of environment conservation to the residents of 51 villages.

Simon’s hard work started bearing fruit eventually, and Bedo’s water level increased. The wastelands turned cultivable, and there was sufficient water to grow more than one crop a year. Barely 20 per cent of Jharkhand’s fields grow rabi crops. Today, Bedo has become the agricultural hub of Jharkhand. The block supplies nearly 20,000 metric tonnes of vegetables to various districts in Jharkhand, besides neighbouring states like Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal.

Former HRD minister Bandhu Tirkey, who once visited Bero as it was a part of his constituency, hailed the decision to award Simon. “What the government is thinking today in terms of protecting crops, that man had thought 40 years ago,” said Tirkey, reports The Telegraph.

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